My first political action was helping my dad, a working class Tory, put a poster in our window for the 1950 election. Since then, until 2013 I was often an active party member but always a loyal Tory voter…sometimes while holding my nose (Heath) other times almost ecstatic with enthusiasm (Thatcher)
Admittedly from 2006 I had my doubts about Cameron and developed an interest in UKIP but I only actually joined UKIP in 2013 because of Diane James and Eastleigh. Until then, outside of Farage, many other UKIP figures did appear to me to be oddballs. Diane James was no oddball and, more importantly, she almost won – and that was why I joined. UKIP was obviously appealing to a considerable number of ordinary voters.
But I have never been a libertarian.
After all, who in terms of practical politics could honestly see a “libertarian” government being elected and then proceeding to dismantle the apparatus of the state? Ron Paul won the devotion of a handful of bright young Ayn Rand groupies. He managed to win straw polls yet remained electorally irrelevant. The Tea Party was a genuine grassroots movement with a laser like focus on fiscal probity that fired the 2010 election and began the undermining of the Democrats and their hold on political power that had been handed to them on a plate by the beltway GOP in 2006 and 2008. After 2008 the GOP leadership and their media pundits were all for going with the flow and working with the Democrats. The Tea Party and their biggest fan, Sarah Palin, went for Obama, Pelosi & Co with knives and baseball bats. The beltway pundits rolled their eyes but the voters liked what they heard. Meanwhile Ron Paul stood aloof from the Tea Party and watched as politics passed him by.
Similarly while UKIP was a tiny fringe cult where libertarians could play all day it attracted few votes outside the meaningless Euros. Once it began to be perceived as a populist party resonating with a shift in public mood in 1913 it began winning local council seats and making an impact in parliamentary elections. This was accompanied by a dramatic increase in membership and the expansion of the branch structure which in some areas generated a lively and energetic core of local activists. The result? More local election gains in 2014 and UKIP’s first MPs’
Not all of the pre 2013 kippers have been impressed, particularly the libertarians. Policy shifts on the NHS, taxation and welfare have led to mutterings about “red UKIP” and perhaps one can understand their concerns. But I also feel that some of them are maybe subconsciously uncomfortable with the influx of new members and the prospects of electoral success. They were happier being perceived as the followers of a fringe cult baying helplessly at the moon because it helped to reinforce their own conviction that they were prophets crying in the wilderness, ignored by an ignorant majority who would suffer on the Day of Judgement.
I would guess that the vast majority of the post 2013 UKIP intake are, like me, inclined towards small government. But we also recognise that a modern nation state is a highly complex structure that needs a modicum of direction if only to guard its citizens from the designs of those who wish us harm through criminal activity within or without the realm.
Of course any political movement needs to be grounded with principles – yet it must also seek to gain power to put those principles into practice. There are only three ways of doing this – by taking over an existing party, by creating a separate party and start to win elections or by some sort of coup or insurrection .Either way means getting your hands dirty with political action….and I really can’t see any of our libertarian dream weavers leaving their ivory towers to do that….